During a study done comparing suicide rates to cancer diagnoses in California between the years 1997-2006, finding showed that there was a total of 1,168 reported suicides in 1,123,528 cancer patients. The study found that cancer patients had a 2.3 times higher suicide rate than the general population. Half of these suicides happened within the first two years of diagnosis (Nasseri et al. [Page 1]). If assisted suicide were legal, people would not have to go to extremes or take brutal measures to end their suffering. In California, the End of Life Option Act (ELOA), which would allow an individual who meets certain requirements, and is diagnosed with a terminal illness by their attending physician, to choose to request a prescription medication intended to prematurely end their life, should be passed (California, State Department of Public Health). With bills filed in twenty states plus the District of Columbia, the fight to legalize physician-assisted suicide for individuals who are terminally ill will be a prominent subject in the US this year. The outcome of these legal struggles is hard to predict, but the cause has picked up momentum since the story of a cancer patient, Brittany Maynard, went viral. There is opposition coming from people with concerns regarding doctor's ethics, as well as religious groups and disability activists who believe that assisted suicide suggests that the lives of disabled, old, and ill individuals are not worth living. However, in the ELOA bill proposed in California, as well as the laws already passed in other states, there are strong protections for the patients built into the laws. (Wilson).
Because assisted suicide is not legal in California, Californians are forced to go to extreme measures if they wish to obtain physician assisted suicide. Oregon was the first state to legalize their own Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) in 1994. Later, they were followed by Washington in 2009 and then Vermont in 2013.